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My husband and I adopted our daughter from the foster care system when she was 9. She had nearly a dozen “mothers” before me. Celebrating Mother’s Day brings up a lot of big, overwhelming feelings when you have lived with this type of trauma.
Mother’s Day isn’t always a joyful day. It’s a heavy, complicated, sad and painful day for many. It’s important to keep that in mind and reach out to the people in our lives who may be hurting.
Here are some stories from moms about why Mother’s Day is difficult for them.
A day of grief
Sarah Milliman of New York also adopted from foster care. The day is so complicated for both her and her son they decided to skip it this year. “Mother’s day is all about grief for me. Grief for my son's birth mother, all she went through and lost. Grief for my son and all the pain, confusion, and guilt he feels. And grief for the relationship I thought I would have with my son and the mother I thought I would be,” she explains.
Too much pressure
Sometimes Mother’s Day is simply stressful and lacking in joy. My friend Amy wishes she could spend the day on the couch “eating Cheez-Itz and Swedish Fish and watching Netflix,” but will spend the weekend making sure it’s special for her son, as well as her mother and grandmother instead of focusing on herself.
Jennifer Hart of California agrees, “Mother's Day means pressure. Pressure to please my mother. Pressure for my husband to please me. Pressure for my son to behave. Pressure to be happy. Pressure.”
Sappy memes that sting
The sentimental commercials, cards and memes are hard to handle for those who are grieving their mothers. For some, the grief is because they were abused, abandoned or neglected by their mothers. For others, it’s because mothers they adored have passed away.
“Mother's Day is when all the sappy stuff comes out, like the Facebook things that say ‘share if you had the best mom ever.’ Those are hard for people who had abusive or absent mothers,” says Lorraine Fuller of Texas.
Kathy Peterson of Washington adds, “They are also hard for those of us that had amazing Moms that have passed on.”
Being without a mom on Mother’s Day is difficult, no matter the reason.
Feeling the loss – alone
And, of course, Mother’s Day is especially hard for moms who have lost a child.
“Mother’s Day fills me with grief and resentment. My son was stillborn and his original due date was Mother's Day. I almost never get recognition from my family. I try to remember that this is another commercially engineered holiday, but sometimes I would like the fuss. My son died, but I’m still his mother,” explains Jennifer Claypool of Florida.
Rebecca Wood, also from Florida, also had a child born still. Her daughter, Kenley, would be three this Mother’s Day. She blogs about infant loss at One Pink Balloon. She says the day is bittersweet, but she still takes time to appreciate both Kenley and Kenley’s little sister who just turned two.
“With one in the stars and one in my arms, Mother's Day means appreciation to me. Not recognition, although that's nice. I appreciate the love I have for both of my daughters. I appreciate the opportunities I have to raise awareness for stillbirth and infant loss because of my love for Kenley. I appreciate the few moments I had with her and all the moments I have now with her little sister. My girls made me a better person. There is no doubt. And I appreciate both of them for that - and for the chance to be their mom,” Rebecca says.
So what do you do when Mother’s Day is hard? Dr. Karyl McBride for Psychology Today advices allowing yourself to feel the pain, but to also focus on the positives in your life.
If someone you know struggles with Mother’s Day, reach out and let them know you’re thinking of them. Dr. McBride says, “Don't tell them to get over it already. It's not helpful and causes additional trauma.” Acknowledge the day and ask if there is anything you can do to help them through it.
Is Mother’s Day complicated for you? We’d love to hear your story in the comment section below.